Writing a cover letter for your job application can be more of an art than a science. What works for one hiring manager may be a turnoff for others. But there are a few hard and fast rules–some definite dos and don’ts. Want to hear about the words you should never use in your cover letter? Of course you do. Keep reading.
As in, short for “you.” Your cover letter is not a text message. “U,” “LOL,” and “YOLO” have no place in a job application. (Yet….but Tufts let prospective freshmen write about their personal definition of YOLO in their admissions essay, so don’t rule it out. Also, the world is ending.)
That said, in some industries it’s OK to be less formal, but if you wouldn’t write it in an email to a colleague or a professor, don’t put it in a cover letter.
As in, “I will do anything.” Employers want to see that you’re focused–on their particular industry, on their particular job. “I’ll do anything” and similar language (“I just need a foot in the door anywhere” or “I’m not picky about the work I do”) makes you look unfocused at best, desperate at worst.
People use this and other thesaurus words like “utilize,” “neccessitated,” “burgeoning,” and “deliverables” because they think the words make them seem smarter or more businesslike. All they do in reality is make it obvious you know how to use a thesaurus. Instead of using “big” words, try making your “small” words count. The exception to this rule is if you’re applying to a company that uses a ton of these words in their job ads themselves. In that case, you may want to write your cover letter in their voice, because the company really believes that these words are useful when really they’re vapid, polysyllabic wastes of space.
For some reason, a number of cover letters (usually sent by would-be investment bankers, go figure) include the number of pull-ups the applicant can perform, the amount of weight he (it’s always a he) can bench press, or other feats of strength. Unless you’re applying to be a personal trainer, leave your physical fitness out of your cover letter.
5) Somebody else’s words
If you found a sample cover letter on the Internet, the hiring manager can find it just as easily. Do you really want to be the applicant who got busted for plagiarizing your cover letter? Plus, if you have to fake it to get the job, is it really the best job for you?
6) The wrong company name
In a perfect world, you’re writing a new cover letter from scratch each time you apply for a job. In the real world, you may be copying and pasting certain phrases or paragraphs from a template you wrote. But if you copy/paste a passage that contains Company A’s name, Company B won’t be happy to see it in their inbox. Nope, just don’t do this.
Job-seeking isn’t easy; you’re competing with tens (if not hundreds) of other applicants, and everyone wants to stand out somehow. By avoiding these six flawed cover letter words, you can prevent yourself from standing out in a bad way.
Rachel Kaufman is a MJD editor and the author of Cover Letters for Creative People, an e-book about crafting the perfect cover letter for job applicants in journalism, communications, advertising, and more. Buy it on Amazon here (and it’s on sale for $2.99 until the end of September!)